Cracking Down on Stolen Valor Claims

Senator James Skoufis (D-Orange County) has introduced a bill that would criminalize false claims of military service, veteran status, as having received military honors or decorations, or previous work as a first responder. If passed, S.9154 would amend the penal law, creating the state crime of stolen valor.

In response to the outrageous and dishonorable claims of Sharon Toney-Finch, who misrepresented herself as a veteran and Purple Heart recipient for rapacious financial gain, Senator Skoufis has also sent a letter to Randy Simons, Commissioner Pro Tempore of the Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation, the state agency that manages the Purple Heart Hall of Honor in New Windsor, Orange County. In his letter, Senator Skoufis urges Mr. Simons to implement additional verification measures to safeguard the integrity of the Purple Heart Roll of Honor, including a signed affidavit attesting the enrollee, under penalty of perjury, actually received a Purple Heart. Ms. Toney-Finch falsified her entry into the Purple Heart Hall of Honor.

“Lying about one’s veteran status and receipt of military honors such as the Purple Heart is a disgraceful act,” Senator Skoufis said. “It should also be a criminal act. The alleged actions by Ms. Toney-Finch – amplified at the time by some local, unapologetic elected officials who sought to score cheap political points – must have consequences. While stolen valor is rightfully a federal crime, it’s high time we criminalized this egregious, damaging behavior in state law as it is an ultimate betrayal of societal trust.”

In 1782, George Washington created the Badge for Military Merit, the Purple Heart’s predecessor, and said of it, “Should any who are not entitled to these honors have the insolence to assume the badges of them, they shall be severely punished.”

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